Did you know that in 1960 Hog basketball players faced off against Ole Miss in – of all places – Blytheville, Arkansas?
And that through this game at least three firsts were accomplished?
1) only UA played in northeast Arkansas, 2) only time Hogs employed a river ferry to reach a game and 3) likely only time Hogs played in an Arkansas county (Mississippi County) that shared a name with the university it was competing against.
I wrote in detail about this 1960 game and why Blytheville was chosen for it in this Sporting Life Arkansas article, but I wasn’t able to fit in the game report and box score to the right. As you can see, Arkansas handled Ole Miss that December evening, a far cry from the Hogs’ recent ineptitude in the series.
Another fascinating tangent of this story involves an NBA exhibition game that was played in Blytheville, Arkansas in 1958. I had always assumed the first NBA preseason games were played at North Little Rock’s Alltel Arena in the early 2000s. How pitifully wrong I was.
The NBA champion St. Louis Hawks played the Philadelphia Warriors at Blytheville High School gym (which sat 3,200 people) on October 8, 1958.
Yes, the world champions of basketball – with all-timers like Bob Pettit and Slater Martin – played in a Arkansas high school gym. That place must really have been the “Taj Mahal” of gyms from Memphis to St. Louis, as the one Blytheville longtime resident termed it.
If you don’t believe me, check out this game program on eBay. (unfortunately, I cannot find the result of the game, so please tell me if you know it).
By the way, this particular eBay seller has some very interesting items for the Mid South sports fan. Below are two of my favorites.
UPDATE: In the years since I wrote this post, I have spoken to many old-timers around the state of Arkansas. I wrote the book at the bottom of the images below about the state’s sport history and heritage, with a focus on race relations. Preview it by clicking on the image of “African-American Athletes in Arkansas.”